Oh My God! That was my reaction earlier today when up, pop, on my twitter feed was news of Manchester United sacking the “Not-So-Special-One” Jose Mourinho.
I must confess to being somewhat surprised, not shocked, as the Portugeezer seemed to have ridden out the recent storm after a string of poor results. Although his team lost to Liverpool over the weekend, that was not totally unexpected. Even though they were playing at home, only the most blinkered United fan could have had high expectations of earning all three points, given the current form of the Scousers.
I did do a double-take, after Shaqiri gleefully slammed home his second goal via a deflection, as the cameras focused on one of the most expensive football-signings ever, Paul Pogba, sitting wrapped in polar gear on the bench, totally divorced from happenings on the pitch. The cameras then flashed to chief executive Ed Woodward whispering into Sir Bobby’s ear. But not for one moment did I conclude that Jose’s goose was cooked. To be frank, I was more concerned with gathering my thoughts and putting into writing my reflections on the Southampton-Arsenal game, which I eventually shared with you my readers.
After the initial surprise I joined twitter along with thousands of football fans worldwide, to spontaneously rejoice at the comeuppance of one of the most arrogant, self-aggrandizing SOBs to ever don the mantle of football manager. Mourinho had this over-inflated sense of his own importance and achievements despite almost all his title-winning teams being able to massively outspend their rivals. This allowed him to sign some of the best footballers in the world giving him a significant managerial advantage over his rivals.
But his pragmatic brand of football, despite winning titles, never caught the imagination of the public. It certainly failed to do so at Real Madrid where he set a club record of winning the most games in a season but ended up being fired. His negativity was perfectly summed up by his tactics as manager of Inter-Milan in a Champions League final, when he played Samuel Eto, one of the greatest strikers of the modern era, as right-back. Thumbing his nose at his critics, he told the world his team enjoyed not having the ball.
Even when Mourinho’s teams attempted a more attractive style, as Abramovich of Chelsea demanded after his first two titles, it was mechanical and lacked authenticity.
Mourinho’s boorishness and general “cuntishness” was to spillover in several infamous affrays with rival managers, staff and his own players. It was left to Arsene Wenger to famously observe of his rival:
“When you give success to stupid people, it makes them more stupid sometimes and not more intelligent.”
Mourinho Was No better Than Decent
The point of today’s post is not to bury Jose Mourinho. Rather we wish to distill the key footballing lessons from his firing.
UFV regards the two most primary requirements for success in the premier league as: (1) spending power, and (2) cooperative referees. Any unbiased review of the success of Sir Alex Ferguson at United will demonstrate he was at the top or close to the top of the league in both categories. Beyond Ferguson, the Premier League dominance of United, Chelsea and City over the past 14 years validates our thesis. But the secondary requirement is having a “better than decent manager” who will execute and turn those inherent advantages into winning games and challenging for titles. Ultimately Jose Mourinho failed to be “better than decent” and had to be let go.
In an era when the “god of mammon” rules the Premier League, failure to achieve the top 4 and miss participation in the champion’s league is not an option. Moyes, Van Gaal and now Mourinho have gotten the can for running United into Europa League waters. Despite justifiable criticism of the Champions League format for throwing up some predictably boring games, it remains the biggest show in club football. There was never the indignity of a 30,000 crowd at the Emirates for a UCL qualifier during the rare years Wenger failed to achieve a round of 16 berth. But most important of all that humongous payout to participating clubs by UEFA from the tv money is a tremendous boon that sets them financially apart from their domestic rivals.
Mourinho had the money. During his three year tenure United spent £419.49m on transfers, only $125m less than his City rivals.
Splurging £53 million on Fred, a central midfielder versus Arsenal securing Lucas Torreira for £22 million illustrates that United may have overpaid but Mourinho had the talent on hand.
They also had the referees firmly in their pocket. In the ten years up to 2017-18 of the traditional top-6 clubs they incurred the second highest number of Yellow Cards, (at 826, only City was higher at 838) yet they were among the least penalized by Red Cards ranking 5th, sitting tight with Tottenham and Liverpool as the least punished clubs by the PGMOL.
By the way: There is sometime genuine confusion but also deliberate obfuscation by some as to whether the data is sufficient proof to PGMOL bias. Fact: It is widely accepted legally that there are different standards of proof. The standard of proof to convict criminally is proof beyond a reasonable doubt versus clear and convincing evidence in a civil matter. The data researched by UFV is certainly not sufficient to sustain a criminal charge but over time more and more compelling data emerges to provide clear, convincing evidence of the PGMOL’s malpractice of refereeing.
If the United management is clear sighted enough to recognize that Mourinho’s management was insufficient for the task at hand and appoint someone with the ambition and personality to ruthlessly take advantage of their superior finances and leverage over the referees, they would ultimately have the last laugh over those of us still guffawing in social media.